Neutering cats means removing their sex organs and as a result stopping them from reproducing. Neutering also stops the production of the hormones responsible for the cat's sexual behaviour. Female neutering is called spaying and involves the surgical removal of the uterus and ovaries. The technical name for the procedure is ovariohysterectomy and it is done under general anaesthetic. It is safe and painless and the animal is up and about within a day or two. Tomcats are neutered is through castration - surgical removal of the testicles. Again the procedure is done under general anaesthetic and it is much less invasive than ovariohysterectomy of female cats. The surgical incisions are very small, often not even requiring stitches and the animal is sent home the same day.
Why neuter a cat?
Because cats are prolific breeders. Females can start breeding from the age of about 6 months; but it is not unheard of for female kittens as young as 4 months to become pregnant. From there a mother cat can produce 3-6 kittens every few months. Cats don't get the menopause and breed throughout their lifespan. Dipping into the feline book of records we find that the most prolific breeder ever was a tabby from Texas, USA called Dusty. She produced 420 kittens. Even if we assume that her offspring each only produced three kittens (i.e. one small litter) in her lifetime Dusty would have had over 4000 descendants. Fertility may gradually decline over time but there is no age after which a female cat can no longer become pregnant. The oldest cat togive birth was Litty, who produced two kittens in May 1987 when she was 30 years old. It is not surprising that the cat population can quickly run out of control. Indeed, in the UK alone there are now an estimated two and a half million stray cats living on the streets. There would be more, but they have bred to the limits of the cat population that the local environment can sustain. Millions of cats are euthanasied every year in America, not because they are old and sick but because nobody wants them.
If neutering your cat in the cause of controlling the cat population is not sufficient incentive, think of the personal benefits to both cats and humans. When female cats come into season, normally known as being in heat, they are not shy about it. They become sexually active and start calling for tom cats. The calls are loud shrieks as if the cat is in pain. At the same time the cat may get more aggressive and start spraying her territory, including inside the home. An outdoor cat she may start wandering into more distant areas, literally looking for love in all the wrong places, and the risk of her getting lost is quite considerable. Un-spayed females come to heat a number of time in a year and this can last from days to weeks. It is a complete myth that a female cat should be allowed to have one litter. There is no biological or psychological benefit to the cat whatsoever.
Then there's un-neutered Toms, sometimes called 'whole' toms. During the mating season these are prolific and undiscriminate sprayers of very unpleasant smelling urine. Toms are more aggressive, especially to other cats, which often results in serious fights. Cat bites are dangerous to the cats because they almost inevitably become infected. An infected bite needs swift treatment with a series of antibiotics to avoid serious health problems. In sexually active cats also risk infection with transmittable diseases such as FIV . Statistics from various animal welfare organisations clearly show that neutered male cats tend to live longer than whole tom cats.
Leaving a cat un-neutered has other medical risks, especially to older cats. For example, there is an increased risk of pyometra and mammary tumours. A pyometra is an infection which occurs in the womb, usually at the time when the kittens would have been born, if the female had been pregnant. It is a life threatening condition, which requires immediate veterinary attention.
Neutering makes a cat more calm and affectionate. They take more interest in their humans, may become more people-oriented generally (unless the cat was very anti-social to begin with.)
When should I neuter my cat?
Cats should be neutered before they reach puberty - which with females is about 6 months and toms 9 months. Many experts feel that six months is an ideal time to spay or neuter. They believe that at six months cats are more or less fully mature. Their urinary tract, in particular the urethra, is fully developed. This is important especially with male cats, which when castrated too early, may have an increased risk of developing urethral blockage. This causes a condition known as feline urological syndrome in which cats have to strain to urinate.
However, recent studies have shown that female kittens spayed as young as 6 weeks after birth are doing well, they recover quickly and to date no serious medical concerns have arisen. Consequently many organisations dealing with animal welfare have been endorsing early neutering, including the Humane Society of the United States, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Humane Association, and the Cat Fanciers' Association.
If you are an owner of un-neutered cat, consult your veterinary clinic. They will be able to advise on the best cause of action.
And here is a video posted on the U-tube which is great and we fully recommend watching it: www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMzW3LIkNLA